Biotech Goliath Monsanto is well-known for its litigious tendencies among farmers, having sued hundreds of them over the years to the tune of over 23 million dollars, according to a recent report. Now the company is headed to the Supreme Court over a battle with a small Indiana farmer that many are hoping will result in the re-examination of current seed patent law, which has resulted in near domination of genetically modified seed in some US crops.
Monsanto has never been afraid to sue any farmer that they suspect of growing their patented seed, even if that seed arrived on the farmer’s property from a bird flying by or on a particularly windy day. Over the years, Monsanto has sued 410 farmers in more than 27 states, in some cases destroying generations-old farms. And while organic farmers struggle to keep Monsanto seed out of their crops, conventional farmers often find that they no longer have a choice about what to plant since 93-percent of soybeans and 88-percent of corn grown in the US now comes from Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. This domination has resulted in superweeds an extreme lack of biodiversity and skyrocketing seed cost for farmers, who are constantly vulnerable to legal action.
Enter Vernon Hugh Bowman, a long-time purchaser of Monsanto seed, which he uses to plant his primary crop each year. Bowman purchased seeds from a third-party grain elevator for a late-season second crop and then used the resulting seeds from that crop to plant another crop the next year.The company sued Bowman, claiming that since he purchased seeds that carried their patent and then re-used those seeds, he violated their patent rights.
But Bowman claims that seeds purchased from a third-party should no longer qualify under the original patent law. This position applies to things like books, which a buyer may purchase from a used-book seller without the original company receiving any royalty. This argument puts a new angle on the patent rights that Monsanto has so carefully guarded, and while sympathizers claim that these patents are essential to protect genetic innovation, Monsanto detractors are hopeful that some respect will finally be given to the age-old tradition of seed offspring being exempt from the laws that covered the parent plant. It would certainly be a triumph for all of those farmers who have tussled with Monsanto over the years.
via Guardian UK